Opposition against Jonathan in the North
The issue of running for office in 2015, we have spoken about it severally. Whenever it is time for election, the temperature goes up, every time there is election, even if it is the chief of a market that we are electing, human temperature will go up, so it is no exception. And the president has not declared whether he will run or not but there have been speculations that he will run or will not run and so on and so forth. But I have always asked people it is only in Nigeria that people start running around for election right after swearing in. So what worries me is that are we really thinking of rendering service to our people or rendering service to ourselves as politicians? Because, if we are thinking of service, you should allow yourself to serve.
I think the time is right for issues of politics, but I can tell you that 70 percent of the time people are rushing in to talk about who contests, who replaces, who will do this? Unfortunately, that is Nigeria for you. May be it is because our democracy is young. We can’t be in so much of a hurry that we will say we have caught up with 250 years old democracy. It is stupid to think that way. But it is good to learn, it is good to make corrections when mistakes are made and it is good to try our best to reform. The President will come out and make a statement at the right time.
PDP crisis and defection
On the issue of the party, we had our own challenges, that is not to say other parties don’t have challenges. Why you see our own is because of our size. And in politics, size does matter. It is always easy to talk about differences in political parties or even in any organisation, but what people failed to realise is that PDP has succeeded to rule Nigeria since 1999. There are so many forces, first of all, in capturing power and retaining power. It has succeeded in the first transition from one civil rule to another and to yet another and to another. Since independence, PDP is the first party to do this. I know PDP belongs to Nigeria, that is what people don’t understand, that is why everybody talks about PDP, even non-party members who belong to another party talk about PDP because is fully Nigeria party. Every Nigerian feels that PDP is his own, unlike other parties. You know who owns party A and party B, but PDP belongs to Nigerians, that is why whatever affects PDP affect Nigeria. Even the opposition talks about PDP including you journalists talk about PDP as if you belong to that party, it is because it is truly a national party.
The challenges we have with some members of our party… I am sure you are aware of spirited efforts made by the President to lift the party, to turn the tide of those who wanted to leave the party. In any family, there is bound to be a quarrel, but to solve and resolve it maturely is the way of PDP. Look at the complaints that have been loaded against our immediate past chairman, Dr. Bamanga Tukur, at the end of the day PDP may be the only party in Nigeria that a chairman can simply resign and another one will step in without fight, without rancour, without breaking heads or tearing agbada. I don’t know any other party in Nigeria that does this except PDP, because we truly have the interest of this nation in our minds.
Hope not lost
We can still reconcile, we can reach out and reconcile. Politics is a voluntary business, I am sure most of the governors who left have their reason why they don’t want to belong to PDP, but as they are leaving, let me assure you that others will be moving in, that is politics. In fact, there are those who left PDP and rushed back. But we will make our efforts, we are not closing our doors, honestly speaking to our members who have left.
And those who are not even our members, who want to come in they are welcome. And I am sure our new chairman, Adamu Mu’azu is equal to the task. He has been a governor for eight years in Bauchi state on the platform of PDP and I have no doubt in my mind that he will reach out and make deliberate effort to see that our party grows from strength to strength. It will be the happiness of Nigeria if PDP continues to do what it is doing, stabilising this nation. You people know the situation of this country in 1998. It was the emergence of PDP that was probably the saving grace for our nation to continue to strive together in harmony, peace and love for each other. In PDP Yoruba is there, including Fulani, Ibo, Hausa, Ikwere, Tiv, Itsekiri man. Every nook and cranny you hear this is our party. If we now handover to a group or individuals and think that is our saviour, well I don’t know….PDP belongs to all of us.
Crisis in Rivers is something the leadership in Rivers should be able to address. I am not from Rivers so I am not in a position to effectively comment truly and deeply on Rivers, because Rivers state has its peculiarities and these peculiarities should best be resolved by our leaders there in the interest of Rivers’ people and in the interest of Nigerians
What next after office?
Planning ahead, you forget the saying that man proposes, God disposes. You can plan whatever you want and I can plan whatever I want to plan, but my fate is in the hands of God almighty. I have said severally at every fora, international and local that as for me my plan, it is to continue to serve this nation in whatever capacity I found myself. When you enter into politics and you don’t have a second address that is when you run into trouble, but I have a profession, I have a second address. I am grateful to my God.
Sources of funding projects
First of all, I give gratitude to Almighty God. Whenever leadership performs and is accepted it is due to the guidance and support from our creator. Secondly, I have no other source of revenue that the usual source of revenue to all states in Nigeria from the federation account, which gives us an average of N3billion to N4 billion per month and, of course, the IGR. When I came into office our IGR was as low as N130million per month, but now it is an average of N1 billion per month. So, if you put it together may be N5 billion per month. We were the first state to implement minimum wage and that takes out more than 50 percent of our funds every month to pay the salaries and running costs. So you see what I am left with to work is about one third of the total amount. In short, I have no other source of revenue beyond the IGR and taxation.
We did devise some methods and those methods have yielded results. Those methods are that we do not award contracts in Katsina, even if it is one million naira, without money to pay for the contract. We tried to imbibe financial discipline. My background is that of a lawyer and yet I read a masters degree in Business Administration and another masters degree in International Affairs and Diplomacy. That helped me a lot and I started running my law firm from the time I left school and I was managing a lot of businesses before I eventually went back to international corporate law and practices, based on that, if we award one million naira contract, we keep one million aside for that contract. We give the contractor N400,000 (that is 40 percent) and he has to give us bank guarantee bond for that. The other N600, 000 (60 percent) we keep in project savings account.
The project savings account has been generating revenue for the state government and we do that for all our projects without exception. At the end of the day when the contractor finish his job and come for payment we pay him and you find that the account has already generated interest. I am not putting public funds into savings accounts, they are money that are tied to specific projects. Working like that over time we generated over N10 billion naira interest separate from all our other sources of revenue. When we made over N10 billion interest we asked ourselves what do we need to do with that? We took part of it, about N400 million and built a brand new governor’s lodge in Abuja and that encouraged us. We took part of it and put it into this new Government House and we still have some money from it to spend. So, the source of funding for our projects are same except this unique approach that we adopted in revenue generation otherwise my revenue remains the same.
I think you can say if corruption is controlled to the minimum level there is possibility that resources can be used more effectively. We are not just talking about the level of available resources alone- we are talking about resource utilization, effective utilization of meager resources we have in the service of the people. That is why we have built over 48 new road projects in the state, we completed every project started by late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and these projects are no mean projects. It included a university, the foundation of which was laid on 27 March, 2007 and we finished that university within 18 months of my becoming the governor. On top of that there was a 165-bed child-maternal care hospital. It was started by late Umaru Yar’Adua. We finished that in about 12 months. Our women and children are getting Medicare for free in that hospital. Late President Yar’Adu of blessed memory started expansion of Katsina airport and I came in and completed it in a matter of six months because the company that was given the contract has gone some distance and we were about to start functioning. Even 747 aircrafts can land at the airport now. There are other projects like roads, water, street lights, and school buildings.
There is no single project started by late President Yar’Adua that was not completed by this administration in 18 months. While we were completing his projects we were planning our own. The moment we completed the circle of projects left for us we launched ourselves into our programmes. We built over 200 secondary schools across the state; we built over 2000 housing units across the state; 34 girl-child secondary schools have been built in collaboration with local governments. We have been paying our salaries on the 22nd to 23rd of each month since I became governor without failing. We have only two incidences we couldn’t pay on the 22nd, 23rd of the month. That was January and December last year because we were doing biometric date capture for our staff to implement the minimum wage. That slowed us down but even that we always pay on the 30th of the month.
We introduced free education policy in the state. For the past six years no child going to public school in Katsina state pays school fees, primary and secondary is free and any child writing WAEC, NECO or SSCE examination to go to the next level government pays for it 100 percent. On top of that we introduced special foreign scholarship fund scheme for students. I have sent now over 700 students to foreign nation to study in critical areas of need of the state- pharmacy, medicine, computer engineering, environmental engineering, marine engineering, physiotherapy, dentistry and geology. These are areas we chose specifically because of the needs of the state. The process of picking the students is transparent. There is no local government in Katsina state today that does not have a medical doctor, a pharmacist, marine engineer, environmental engineer, physiotherapist, and radiologist. At least five have been trained from every local government area.